A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law

Stanford Univ. Apr. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780804776707. $28. LAW
Breslin (political science, Skidmore Coll.; The Communitarian Constitution) identifies the years 1825, 1863, 1903, 1953, and 2022 as inflection points in the ebb and flow of U.S. Constitutional experience. His introduction establishes the events of 1787 as a template for five chapters that each imagine a constitutional convention called to respond to challenges of the era. He populates each convention with historical figures, who debate fundamental issues such as universal public education and the Electoral College. The premise for the book arises from Thomas Jefferson’s notion that democratic self-rule invests every generation with an inalienable right to a constitution of its own. Breslin notes that 44 state constitutions “include provisions for constitutional renewal.” He theorizes that in today’s highly polarized and dysfunctional political environment, a constitutional convention using a disruptive crowdsourcing model would put entrenched partisan power directly into the hands of the citizenry and might generate constructive dialogue about the nation’s fundamental principles and practices.
VERDICT Entertaining, instructive, and learned, Breslin’s creative narratives brim with analytical and historical detail that explain the workings of the U.S. Constitution and Constitutional framing. His work will educate and excite readers at every level who are interested in the Constitution’s force, function, and future.
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